Ultimate X-Men #36Originally, back before the Ultimate line was even a rumor, Brian Bendis was slated to write both Ultimate X-Men and Ultimate Spider-Man. He passed then, but is back on now, announcing over the weekend that he'll remain on Ultimate X-Men for at least a year after his initially six-issue run. Newsarama caught up with him to talk about this as well as his other Marvel projects.

The new gig will keep Bendis and artist David Finch on the title for at least a year, allowing something that can be hard to come by in today's market (aside from Bendis' other titles, unsurprisingly) - creative consistency. Both Bendis and Finch are planning for a year with no fill-ins on either's part.

Newsarama: Setting the stage a little, and going back a ways - you were originally going to write both Ultimate X-Men and Ultimate Spider-Man from their start. Why did you turn down the X-Men gig, ultimately?

Brian Bendis: I just wasn't ready yet. I didn't feel it, and didn't hear the voices. I heard the Ultimate Spider-Man voices, I know I sound like a freak, but writers or musicians will know what I mean. You just hear the voices talking to each other. I was very excited about Ultimate X-Men but I didn't have it yet, group books are specialties - look at [Mark] Millar and [Geoff] Johns, it's a specialty. I needed more time in the field of mainstream comics. Maybe I could have slid by, but I didn't want to, I wanted to feel it.

NRAMA: Speaking of the feelings then, what changed for you in the intervening time that made you either want to, or feel comfortable enough to take over the book?

BB: I think I'm a better writer. Time and practice has to have some effect, and Mark Millar laid the tracks. Now, I have a very clear vision of the themes of all the Ultimate books, in part thanks to Mark and Bill [Jemas] and Ralph [Macchio, editor].

NRAMA: So then, was your upcoming run on the title a trial run to see how you'd like it in regards to taking to over monthly?

Ultimate X-Men #35BB: No, no. It was an arc; it was a chance to try something. I had no intention of staying past the arc. I wasn't fibbing.

I was doing six and leaving. But David Finch started kicking ass, and then Dave Stewart started kicking ass which I think a lot of people have seen this week in the preview art Marvel is showing. Its very hard to leave when a book is working out as well as this is.

And my "boo-hoo" problem in life is that this is something I am overly blessed with; I have this with Maleev, Oeming, Bagley, Gaydos, Hollingsworth and Pentazis. My happy meal cup runneth over to exclaim and overused cliché, but it is. To have this again with such a different style, I just couldn't leave.

But most importantly, I started writing down all these stories and character threads. Once that starts flowing…and then, someone I am a huge fan of and a very close friend of mine, someone insanely perfect for the gig, someone that no one will even guess, said he would come on board after I was done, so I could now build this run and make a solid bridge for the next guy, next year.

The whole thing became very attractive on numerous levels.

So what you are going to get is a solid year or so of David Finch and I, no breaks, no fill ins, just a solid run, then… a big surprise replacement that I am thrilled about.

NRAMA: Fair enough. With Ultimate Spider-Man, you nailed the dynamic right out of the gate, capturing the teen angst and everything else that was needed for the book. What's your view of the dynamic of the Ultimate X-Men?

BB: It will build on Mark's. It won't contradict him other than my politics are a just a smidge less maniacal than his, and by smidge I mean a lot less maniacal. But what I lack in maniacal I make up for in paranoia. My stories, though surprisingly action packed, will have real character moments. I think a lot of the relationships need evaluation and exploration and that is what I love to do more than anything.

BB: That said, will your run be that different from Mark's?

BB: I'll let the readers decide. But my respect for mark is clear.

NRAMA: Okay then, stream of consciousness time - just give a few words that sum up your view of each: Professor Xavier

BB: Man, that bald head is sexy, and is it me or is he the sexiest? Think he is voted most likely to have skeletons in the closet.

NRAMA: Jean Grey

BB: Most likely to be the most talked about by readers in about six months.

NRAMA: Wolverine

BB: Most need of serious, serious, serious redemption.

NRAMA: Cyclops

BB: Most likely to be not what he seems.

NRAMA: Colossus

BB: Most likely to have a secret life.

NRAMA: Iceman

BB: Most likely to not have much to do in my first arc.

NRAMA: Storm

BB: My favorite x-men to write but my least favorite to read.

NRAMA: Beast

BB: Smarter than me, makes him a challenge to write.

NRAMA: Magneto

BB: Mark took care of him. I think we'll leave it at that.

NRAMA: You answered a lot of this in the Magneto question, but still, with the Ultimate team, you've got the "dream team" of X-Men here. Mark did it well, adding his own twist to stories from the mainline continuity, but how do you plan on writing stories that aren't just "if I was Chris Claremont, I woulda done it this way…"?

BB: If I was Chris Claremont? Could you imagine the amount of balloons on a page if I was Chris Claremont, you wouldn't even need an artist, it would be all balloons.

Honestly, just like Daredevil or Ultimate Spider-Man, you embrace the past but you run forward. I try not to over analyze it. But I've already read Chris' amazing X-men stories. I will honor that important time in comics by moving forward with the concepts, which I think is what we do in Ultimate Spider-Man.

NRAMA: With that in mind then, Mark has kept the heat on with the X-Men fighting Magneto and the Brotherhood as a constant presence. Will you be continuing in that vein, or will your Ultimate X-Men take a different tact?

BB: I don't want to give the ending of Mark's run away, so no comment.

NRAMA: Generally speaking though, how different is writing Ultimate X-Men from writing Ultimate Spider-Man?

BB: The tone, the character dynamics, everything, its as different as it is to write Alias and Ultimate Spider-Man.

NRAMA: Okay then, tease gently - what's coming in your first arc?

BB: Well, I see online that some people think that I am cramming a team up story into x-men but that's not it. Although Spidey and a couple of other Marvel characters do involve themselves in the story, this is a Wolverine story. Wolverine is the most damaged of the group as regular readers know and this is a not so easy redemption story. The X-Men are front and center in the story, but I don't want to give too much away.

From there, we will start an arc called "New Mutants" where we will introduce Ultimate versions of some classic characters and a couple of new characters and how the mutant world deals with different types. All that wrapped around some surprising relationship shifts in the core group of characters.

NRAMA: Moving over to Ultimate Spider-Man, and speaking of team ups - the women of the X-Men appear in issue #43. Now - is that a team-up story?

Ultimate Spider-Man #43BB: Yes, the X-ladies appear in Ultimate Spider-Man for what is definitely a team up. But its an awkward teen social situation/ Marvel team up. All this unrelated to the events of Spidey in Ultimate-X-Men.

NRAMA: You've hit all the big guns in Ultimate Spider-Man so far in regards to villains, and have started creating new. Who'll be the villains of the future? More familiar faces, or more new, or a blend?

BB: Well, how about the Black Cat in issue #50? You know all that sexual tension with the Black Cat and Spidey, how about if one of them is fifteen and the other doesn't know it?

NRAMA: Ho-kay. Again, let's just do stream of consciousness in regards to Ultimate Spider-Man - teases and tidbits?

BB: Lots of MJ, lots of Spidey vs. the world, lots of genetic activity that brings on a couple of shockers over the year, more Flash, more Kong, more Gwen. Aunt May cracks. Clones. Ultimate clones. Universe cross over clones.

NRAMA: Um - let's just move away from that for now and touch on Daredevil. issue #49's tagline is: "You never thought it would happen…" A lot of people never thought you'd out Matt's secret ID. What's left?

BB: As promised when I revealed his identity, there will be no easy way out and no easy answers, but it does come to a head in issue #50 which I am happy to announce will feature a special scene illustrated by the great names of Daredevil past: Gene Colan, John Romita Sr, John Romita Jr, Quesada, David Mack, Lee Weeks, and Klaus Janson. All wrapped in an Alex Maleev bow, its really going to be something. I love anniversary issues with cool shit in them.

NRAMA: Backing up on the current storyline ("Hardcore") a little then - in some ways, it feels like you handling the Kingpin's return is you finally getting to write the mob story you wanted to write - a superhuman Brando comes back from the dead in Godfather to mete out revenge… how long have you been building to this particular story?

BB: Since I got on the book.

slight spoiler warning for Daredevil #46

Daredevil  #46NRAMA: Okay, now explain a little here. For years there was the odd honor/trust/hate relationship between Matt Murdock and Kingpin in that he knew who Matt was, and there was an uneasy détente between them. Now, the Kingpin's empire ruined due to his knowledge of Daredevil's secret identity, in a sense, he's out to kill him. Wouldn't Wilson would have some odd sense of honor that would force him to keep his hands off of Matt, since all of Matt's current suffering is kinda his fault, but not directly caused by him? Why does the Kingpin have the mad on for Matt?

BB: Right now all Wilson is doing is using or destroying anything in his way. He is in full out "Survivor: Kingpin" mode.

NRAMA: Fair enough, but at the same time, well, it's almost a running theme in Matt's life, but here he is, taking up with another woman, a.k.a "red shirt." How much longer will Milla be around? After all, isn't Matt's general unhappiness/tragedy one of the things that keeps him rolling? What happens to Daredevil if Matt's allowed to be happy?

BB: Ah, good question, see issue #49.

NRAMA: Okay then, in that same regard, knowing that his enemies think he is Daredevil and that Kingpin is back - isn't Matt being selfish in not forcing Milla away in that Disney movie sense where the wild animal follows the kid home, and they have to throw rocks at it to get it to go away?

BB: Well, in real life, I have yet to meet a man who has ever pushed a woman away from him. Trust me, all this will be dealt with.

NRAMA: David Mack comes onboard to write an arc after issue #50. What roads are you going to go down once you come back after David?

BB: I am so excited about our new path, there's really nothing I can say about it that wouldn't spoil the next few issues, but I will say that David's arc is gorgeous. It's breathtaking.

NRAMA: Okay, but then why are you taking a break from Daredevil in the first place? Going from the Ultimate X-Men stuff, one could get the idea that David is coming on as a test run, and then we'll be talking about him being the new regular Daredevil writer. Are you still planning on staying with Daredevil for a hella long time from here?

BB: Yeah, we're staying. Daredevil is so important to me, it really is. Alex and I have more stories to tell.

Simply, David wanted to do a sequel to his Echo story. He's one of my best friends on the planet, and he is the reason I have the job in the first place, so it is with glee that I step aside for this, it comes at a great time because that's about when Alex would need a break anyhow. Also, it gives me time to work on secret projects and Ultimate X-Men.

Also, David has new Kabuki coming out so this arc is a one time deal, but I tell you if he wanted back on the book, I would gladly step aside, well, not gladly, but that's what I would tell him…

NRAMA: Okay, wrapping up our round robin touches on all your Marvel projects, let's talk Alias. The upcoming story arc that starts in issue #24, "Purple" is described as one of the darkest chapters in Marvel history, dealing with Jessica Jones' final days as the costumed hero, Jewel. Okay - it's dark - how so?

Alias  #24BB: You know how in X-Files they always promised an answer and they never gave it? At the end of Purple you will have everything, including the Jewel comic marvel never published by Bagley, with sequences by Rick Mays, and guest stars out the hoo hah.

NRAMA: Alright, but if it was anywhere else but Alias, I'd expect a rather humdrum reason for a hero deciding to stop their career, but this is Alias. So what gives? Iron Man felt her up in the back room? Thor asked her to try and lift his "hammer?"

BB: Ah shit, now I have to go rewrite it [laughter]. No, no. So far no one has guessed it. And the hints are all over the book.

NRAMA: But as she is today, Jessica redefines tough as nails. "Purple" then shows us a Jessica prior to being the tough girl she is now - a more vulnerable Jessica?

BB: Read it and see.

NRAMA: Finally - this question comes up every time you take on a new gig, but c'mon - how much can you handle a month? Do you have room, scheduling wise for all of this, or will the addition of Ultimate X-Men require some rejigging of your work schedule?

BB: Well, the X-Men run will last about a year as we all prepare for the next regular writer who is on deck, who is an insanely excellent choice. No one will guess who it is and I couldn't be more excited about.

So though my commitment to Ultimate X-Men is sturdy and will be a complete run with all my energy and efforts, with art team intact for the whole run, which is something I think a lot of readers, including myself, really appreciate in their monthly comics, it is temporary in comparison to Spider-Man, Alias, Daredevil, and Powers, which is unmoving at the moment.

The good news is that I am still very much ahead on all my books giving me plenty of room to write whatever I am passionate about that day and not worry about deadlines which I think is key to what a lot of people like about what is going on in the books. The break in Daredevil is a big one giving a lot of room for other goodies.

I am so grateful to everyone for giving me these opportunities, its nice to come by here and give all these little surprises we have planned back in return.

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